Coming off of the breakup of the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page later befriended bassist John Paul Jones, whom he knew about from Jones’ session work with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, and Dusty Springfield. They decided to form a band, asking fellow session musician Terry Reid and drummer B.J. Wilson of Procol Harum to join them; Reid declined, but he did recommend them another singer, Robert Plant. Plant then recruited another drummer, John Bonham, who was in Plant’s previous group, Band of Joy. They first started out under the name, The New Yardbirds, until later changing it to Led Zeppelin, thanks to a joke Keith Moon made; many years back, Moon, Page, Jones, and Jeff Beck recorded a song and talked about forming a band, to which Moon remarked, “the band would go over like a lead balloon.”
But with these four men, history was now etched in the marble of rock and roll’s pantheon. They were the spontaneous combustion of the late sixties, all the way into the seventies, up until their dispirited denouement as a band in 1980 due to the untimely passing of Bonham. A band like Zeppelin never acclimated to their surroundings; they were the kind of mammoth energy who made every band around them adjust to THEIR surroundings.
Here’s where ClassicRockHistory.com honors one of our favorites by offering up a collection of some of their quality gems outside of the well-known hits, so don’t expect to see Stairway to Heaven on this list. So to spare you the endless loquacity, It’s time to get the Led out, people!
10.) Your Time Is Gonna Come
Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash allegedly stated in an interview that this was his favorite Zeppelin song. This clement yet savage folk rock exercise was one of many acoustic pieces that graced their groundbreaking debut Led Zeppelin. It has so much character to it, since it sounded so rushed during the session; Page played an out of tune Fender 10-string acoustic, so that pretty much explains it all. But that’s what makes it so incredible; this heavy band producing such a song against their typical style. It’s also the perfect song for anybody out there who’s every been cheated on by an unfaithful spouse.
9.) Achilles Last Stand
Their 1976 record, Presence, is probably their most underrated. It was produced during a time where it felt like the band had fallen from grace; how could they follow-up with an album as great as Physical Graffiti? But most of the tumult came about due to a car accident Robert Plant sustained in 1975 while he was in Greece. Making music became difficult for them, but in the end, at least it gave us fans one of their greatest songs.
Achilles Last Stand, one of their longest compositions, boasts some of Page’s most complicated guitar work; he over dubbed countless different layers to create that orchestra-like fullness. And let’s not even get started on that epic solo halfway through. Plant is also at his best here, lyrically; he sings of the beauty that he had witnessed in Morocco, with homages to poet William Blake as well. Bonham’s drumming is also a highlight here.
8.) The Battle of Evermore
Throughout their career, Zeppelin have always had a fascination with fantasy and mythology; mainly of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This epic from their fourth self-titled classic, infamously known as Zoso, fits perfectly within its mythos. It spotlights Page on the mandolin, along with an overarching acoustic arrangement that sets the mood for an Arthurian story glazed In a trance of medieval instrumentation. The song also features fellow folk singer Sandy Denny of the group Fairport Convention. She really adds the right kind of flavor for a song of its stature.
7.) In My Time of Dying
Their double LP from 1975, Physical Graffiti, is often cited as their magnum opus; there’s really nothing to argue about when it comes to that kind of statement. It’s the album that took every component of their various musical attributes and blended it all into a work of diverse art. In My Time of Dying is the crème de la crème of Zeppelin’s blues jam repertoire, but it’s ironically enough their most refined. This vicious assault was originally an old gospel standard, but the guys turn it into an 11 minute suite that never gets redundant; this is the bands longest studio recording.
Page plays some of his best electric blues slide here in an open A tuning, while Jones holds the groove down with a fretless bass. Of course we can’t overlook Bonham’s pulse-pounding percussion; usually drummers work around the other musicians’ rhythm, but with Bonham, it’s the exact opposite. Look out for a very funny cough at the end of the song where they decided to let the tapes roll.
6.) Ten Years Gone
Transitioning into the number 6 spot is another Physical Graffiti deep cut. This one’s much more soporific and calming, but with a faint twist of harmonious crunch to satisfy those looking for essential Led Zeppelin; they certainly don’t let up here. The song’s got a great riff that starts out quiet and free of any gain, but soon comes out of the shadows with a sharp enormity to it that let’s the listener they’re in for quite the ride.
Plant wrote the lyrics about a girlfriend of his who threatened to leave him if he didn’t choose her over his music; it’s really quite a woeful song coming from such a loud and unpredictable band, but it’s prose illustrates such peaceful imagery that made Plant the great songwriter that he was. Page also substitutes showmanship with textually, embellishing the track with his numerous guitar overdubs that creates an ocean of fluorescent meditation.
5.) Thank You
Here’s where we get into the beginning of Robert Plant’s journey as a fantastic writer, and one could also say, “poet.” One would probably be surprised at how many sensitive ballads Zeppelin actually created, but that’s the beauty of their consummate artistry; they made music that could be felt in other areas besides the upbeat pandemonium of their archetypal hard rock. Jimmy Page plays the 12-string acoustic here, and Jones substitutes his bass for a Hammond organ. Thank You was written for Plant’s then-wife, and it really showed in his prose that she was his everything; just listen to this brilliant passage that opens and closes the song:
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.
This is one of the songs that made their 1969 classic, Led Zeppelin II, a turning point for the band.
4.) How Many More Times
Time to take a break from their more reserved temperament and name song that’s indicative of their signature style. Their debut album was something the world just couldn’t handle at the time, and was so far ahead of the music of that era, much like with their fellow counterparts who were also experimenting with crushing distortion and feedback; Zeppelin, however, were more in tune with new ideas. How Many More Times is an excellent example of their blues chops and off-the-cuff jamming. The song originally started out as a medley of different pieces Page worked on while in the Yardbirds.
What’s so cool about the song is its slow-tempo groove, which was inspired by the Latin rhythm, Bolero. The song also houses many homages to the blues greats; most notably Albert King’s The Hunter, and Howlin’ Wolf’s How Many More Years. It’s also one of the songs in which Page played the guitar with a violin bow; a technique he utilized regularly during live shows, and another song from the album, Dazed and Confused. Fun fact: Page cleverly altered the song’s length on the album sleeve as 3 minutes instead of the 8 minutes it clocks out to, in order to trick radio stations into playing it.
Their third self-titled record was quite the musical shift for Zeppelin. This was the masterpiece that proved to the world that they weren’t just some ordinary blues rock formation; this band was here to evolve the traditional landscape of rock into something less traditional and more along the lines of modern revisionism. Led Zeppelin III was their lightest album, in contrast to their first two, which put more emphasis on “loudness.” This record pushed their crushing riffs in the back for more folk-based sensibilities; Tangerine is just that.
It’s probably the best song on the album, because it’s just a simple acoustic progression layered with several elements that properly punctuated the easy-going, folk melodies that dominated throughout that period; Page plays the pedal steel guitar here, adding a hint of Country to the mix as well. The lyrics were also written by Page during his Yardbirds days, with a few contributions made by singer Keith Relf. It goes without saying that Tangerine is one hell of a moving song.
2.) When the Levee Breaks
This was the perfect song to close out IV. Some would call the record their definitive work, thanks to the classic rock touchstones, Black Dog, Rock and Roll, Going to California, and Stairway to Heaven; another thing that should be noted is the enigmatic album art, which was also a trademark for the band. When the Levee Breaks is an elephantine master class of the very sound that birthed Heavy Metal, and that’s all thanks to Bonham’s epic percussion. Seriously, that driving rhythm is legendary, and is something every aspiring rock drummer studied. One could also say that When the Levee Breaks predated Hip Hop, because that drum beat has been sampled far and wide; a very famous example would be the Beastie Boys‘ Rhymin’ and Stealin.’
Originally a 1929 blues song by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, Zeppelin yet again managed to make an archaic standard their own. The production behind When the Levee Breaks was also quite intriguing as well. They recorded Bonham’s drums at the bottom of a stairwell at the Headley Grange poorhouse using two microphones two give the drums that reverb effect. They also recorded Plant’s harmonica backwards and the entire song a tempo high and then slowed down. This is the Zeppelin song everybody should experience at high volumes.
1.) The Rain Song
It was pretty hard finding a deep track that could hold the number one slot in our Led Zeppelin Songs Deep Tracks List, but at the end of the day, if there’s one composition that perfectly sums up Led Zeppelin at their most creative and magnificent, it has to be the orchestral mood piece, The Rain Song, from their 1973 record, Houses of the Holy. The record marked a pivotal direction in the bands work, because it was the first to feature original material written.
This has to be their most attractive epic they’ve ever birthed; every layer to its foundation is pure heaven, and doesn’t even sound like it was made by the same band who did Whole Lotta Love. Lyrically, it’s quite powerful; using the seasonal changes and weather as metaphors for the human condition. There’s simply nothing like it. It’s musical arrangement is breathtaking; the simple combination of the acoustics and Jones’ Mellotron creates the illusion of a large brass ensemble.
It has also been said that the Rain Song was inspired by George Harrison. The legendary Beatle questioned them on why they never wrote enough ballads, so this was their response. Pretty interesting how little incidents such as that can inspire amazing things.
The Top 10 Led Zeppelin Songs Deep Tracks List
Written by Matthew Pollard